This afternoon, Vancouver City Council approved the Grandview Woodland Community Plan by the not-surprising vote of 10-1 with only Councillor Adriane Carr voting against.
However, not content with the Planning Department’s four years of work, Councillor Reimer had produced a long list of substantive amendments to the Plan that she had conjured together over night. Those amendments — which included allowing the full 12 stories for the Boffo Tower — were approved by majority and so it was this amended Plan that was finally bulldozed through Council.
Councillor Geoff Meggs made it clear he was disappointed in the level of density Grandview would accept under the Plan, and he suggested that we were not carrying our weight. I am certain he will be looking for spot rezoning applications he can help push through against the word and spirit of the Plan, especially around the south end of Commercial. I am sure most of his Vision brethren will be right behind him.
- Boffo doesn’t need any genuine public hearings for a rezoning now and I expect them to move swiftly, looking for permission to start digging that big hole every tower needs;
- how quickly will we see applications along Hastings between Clark and Nanaimo?
- how quickly will Broadway & Commercial change? Will tower plans await the subway decision?
- will the renoviction rate accelerate as rapidly as tenants’ advocates fear with new height allowances?
- What effect will all this have on the debilitating business and residential rent increases currently afflicting the Drive?
- Are the folks managing the Britannia Renewal project as upset as they should be that the City has decreed there will be housing on Britannia? And will this Community Plan override any Renewal Plan produced in the future?
An awful lot of intelligent people put an awful lot of effort into trying to help the Community understand what the Plan might meet for them and their quality of life. Outside the strictly-limited boundaries of the Planning process there was an intense debate about height, density, social justice. A great many people got very interested and then got very frustrated by the process that was deliberately closed down, first by the faux “Citizens’ Assembly” and then the year long wait while Planning decided how to spin the Assembly’s requests, refusing to talk with or meet with the neighbourhood during that time.
That being said, I am sadly aware that most people in Grandview will leave their residences tomorrow to head to work or school or recreation and not give a moment’s thought. They might read a report on the hearing in the Metro while they commute, and then turn to the sports pages. In the months ahead they will get cranky about all the building fences blocking sidewalks and smaller streets, but it will be a generalised annoyance only. Only when the towers are completed at both ends of the Drive will they wonder what was there before.
How do we get to those masses of people and make then understand that they should have some say in the future of their own neighbourhood; and that by having a say they can and will change plans for the better?
The NO TOWER Coalition did a wonderful job with their weekly information tables in Grandview Park. They actually talked with thousands upon thousands of residents and visitors, more than three thousand of whom agreed to sign the petition against the Boffo Tower. They also did a really good job with getting the signs out and about throughout the community.
But that wasn’t enough to engage the active interest of the mass of the middle class, Vision’s heartland. Vision’s constant polling (they are the only full time party in Vancouver) lets them know if they are in trouble in places, like Grandview, where they need to be strong to maintain a majority in the at-large Council chamber. In this case, they felt confident enough to tear down four years of work by their Planning Department with amendments apparently rushed together overnight. While this hardly compares with the pages and pages of hastily-scribbled last-moment amendments that formed part of the DTES Plan, it shows a constant need for Vision to intrude their ideology onto the technical work of the Planners.
I have written several times before about the assymetric power relationship in which a pick-up team of unpaid untrained and unprofessional(ly qualifed) volunteers goes head to head with a well-funded developer, a plethora of expensive PR agents, compliant mainstream media, and as often as not, the power of the incumbent Council regime. This can only be solved by structural changes to the system and it must include a return to the third-party appeals process that we lost a decade or so ago. I also believe that a ward system is key to most of the needed changes.
However, that is all for the next generation of activists to figure out.